Limington selectmen expect it will take several days to get the town’s fire department back to work after officials discovered protective gear for firefighters is out of date.

Selectmen on Saturday ordered the town’s volunteer department to “stand down” from responding to fires because firefighting protective gear is out of compliance with national standards. The equipment issue was discovered after the retirement of longtime Fire Chief Mike Hartford.

Most of the protective gear used by firefighters was purchased in 2005 and exceeds the “mandatory retirement age” of 10 years from the date of manufacture set by the National Fire Protection Association. The national standard applies to jackets, pants, helmets and boots.

The situation with the out-of-date equipment was discovered by assistant chiefs who stepped in to help run the department after Hartford’s retirement. They notified selectmen Friday and the board met Saturday to figure out how to respond, Selectman Bruce Rozett said.

Rozett said the equipment should have been inspected annually and selectmen do not yet know why that didn’t happen. Annual inspections were done on ladders, pumps and hoses, and they are all in proper working order, he said.

“We don’t know how we got into this situation,” Rozett said. “While that information is important to selectmen, it’s secondary to getting the department back into service. Until then, it’s not on our radar.”

Rozett said selectmen are looking into options to borrow or rent equipment for firefighters, but still aren’t sure how to pay for it. The town has applied three times for a Federal Emergency Management Agency fire grant that would provide the town with 20 new sets of gear, but hasn’t heard back on the latest application. The annual town budget was set at the March 5 meeting. Selectmen could use money from a capital improvements account if voters approve that move at a special town meeting, he said.

Until firefighters are equipped with new gear, mutual aid from Limerick, Cornish, Hollis and Standish will respond to fire calls in Limington. The Limington department will still handle medical calls.

There are just over 20 volunteer firefighters in the York County town of about 3,100 residents. Rozett said none of the firefighters or any residents have contacted selectmen with concerns.

“In rural communities, any fire call necessitates mutual aid because we don’t have water mains or fire hydrants,” Rozett said. “I think people feel comfortable that the mutual aid towns will respond immediately.”

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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